Chapter no 31

A Court of Silver Flames

Nesta was just settling herself at the dining table, stomach gurgling with hunger, when Cassian entered.

Limped in was more like it.

She couldn’t stop a near-silent gasp from escaping her as she took in the black eye, the split lip, the bruised jaw.

“What happened?” she demanded.

Cassian shuffle-hopped to his chair and then dropped into it. “I sparred with Rhys.”

“You look like a tenderized piece of meat.” “You should see him.” He laughed hoarsely.

“Why did you fight like that?” If it had something to do with her nightmare—

“Rhys needed to get it out of his system.” Cassian sighed at the bowl of roast chicken and rice soup that appeared before him. “Despite that smooth exterior my brother presents to the world, he needs to let loose every now and then.”

“Your idea of letting loose and mine appear to be very different.”

He snorted, sipping a spoonful of soup. “It wasn’t for fun. Just to release some tension.”

“About what?” She knew she had no business inquiring.

But Cassian set down the spoon, his face turning grave. “The baby has wings.”

She needed to blink a few times to process that. “How can they know already?”

“Madja’s magic allows her to glean a general shape of a babe within the womb, to check that all is well. He’s large enough now for her to detect that all the limbs are in order … and that he has wings.”

Utterly incredible, the way their magic could work. To actually be able to see within the womb itself.

Nesta couldn’t stop the small voice in her mind from wondering what her own power might do, if she untethered her leash on it. And couldn’t stop the bolt of panic that answered. As if thinking about it would allow it to roam free.

Nesta made herself ask, “So Rhysand didn’t want the baby to have wings?”

Cassian kept eating. “It’s not that. It will be a joy for him, for me and Az and Feyre, too, I suppose, to teach the baby how to fly, to love the wind and sky as we do. The problem is the birth.”

“I don’t understand.”

“How many half-Illyrians have you met?” “Only Rhys, I suppose.”

“That’s because they’re extremely uncommon. But Rhys’s mother was Illyrian herself. And Illyrian women hardly ever marry and reproduce outside their communities. Illyrian males do so far more often, or at least fuck around, but you rarely see the offspring.”


“Illyrian females have a pelvis shaped specifically for children with wings to pass through. High Fae females do not. And when a child has wings, they can get stuck during labor.” His face had gone pale beneath the bruises. “Most females die, the babes with them. There’s no way for magic to help, short of fracturing a female’s pelvis to widen it for the birthing. Which might kill the babe anyway.”

“Feyre is going to die?” Her words were a whisper. For a heartbeat, every bit of spite, of anger, of bitterness faded away. Pure, clear panic

replaced it.

“A few do survive.” Cassian made to rub his face, then stopped before he could press the bruises. “But the labor is so brutal that many of them either come close to death or are so altered by it that they can’t have another child.”

“Even with a healer to repair them?” Her heart was pounding, so sickeningly fast she had to set down her utensils.

“Honestly, I don’t know. And any attempts in the past to cut the child out of the mother’s womb have been …” He shuddered. “No mother has ever survived.” Nesta’s blood turned to acid. Cassian rolled his shoulders. “So we won’t even try that route. Madja will be there each step of the way, though, doing whatever she can. And we don’t yet know how Feyre’s own magic will impact the birth.”

“Is Feyre distraught?”

“She doesn’t know the full scope of it. But all of us who have grown up here know what it means for a High Fae female to bear a baby with wings.”

Nesta willed herself to settle the fear leaching through her. “And Rhys needed to fight out his fear.”

“Yes. Along with his guilt and pain.”

“Perhaps another court has a healer who knows more than Madja. Maybe one with a winged people. The Dawn Court has the Peregryns— Drakon’s people are Seraphim. Miryam doesn’t have wings and yet she’s given birth to Drakon’s children.”

“Rhys is heading to their island tomorrow. And Mor is making discreet inquiries at the Fae courts on the continent.” He ran a hand through his hair, Siphon catching the light. “If there is a way to save Feyre from a death sentence, Rhys will find it. He will stop at nothing until he figures out a way to spare her.”

Silence fell, and the weight upon her chest was nearly unbearable. Rhys would do that, she knew without a doubt. The High Lord would go to the ends of the world for a way to save Feyre.

She said quietly, “I’ll try scrying again.”

Cassian’s black eye was stark in the light as he lowered his brows in warning. “After last night—”

She lifted her chin. If that babe survived … Nesta would not allow him to be born into a world once more plunged into war. But she didn’t say that, couldn’t open herself up like that. “I need to regain my strength after yesterday’s attempt. We’ll do it tomorrow night.”

“I want Rhys and Amren there. And Az.” “Fine.”

Cassian leaned back in his chair. It was almost comical, his heavy stare combined with his split lip and black eye. He said after a moment, “Why haven’t you sought me out?”

Nesta knew what he meant solely from the way his voice had dropped an octave.

She could play this game of distraction. He had no idea how well she’d learned to play it. So she let her own voice drop, too. “Why haven’t you sought me?”

“I’m taking my cues from you. You seemed to have no interest in me after …” He nodded to the table between them, the floor where she’d knelt between his legs. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

Nesta let out a rough laugh. “No, you didn’t hurt me.” She reached across the table, tracing a finger down his arm before meeting his eyes. “I loved it when you fucked my mouth, Cassian.”

His eyes darkened. She rose, and he went wholly still as she rounded the table and came to a stop beside his chair. “Do you want to fuck me on this table?” she asked softly, running a hand over the smooth surface. He shuddered, as if he imagined that touch on his skin.

“Yes,” he said, voice guttural. “On this table, on this chair, on every surface in the House.”

“I don’t think the House would appreciate such filthy behavior. Even if it’s a romance reader as well.”

“I … What?” His breath had turned uneven.

She leaned in to press a kiss against his torn mouth. It wasn’t a loving gesture. Wasn’t even a sweet one. It was a challenge and a wicked taunt to forget their fear and pain and come tangle with her. “I have no interest in bedding a male who looks like he’s been in a tavern brawl,” she said onto his lips.

“We can dim the lights.”

Nesta chuckled. Desire had fogged his eyes, and she knew if she looked down, she’d see the evidence of how affected he was. But she wouldn’t give herself that temptation.

He’d be her reward—but only after she’d accomplished the scrying.

Her lips curved. “When you’re healed and looking pretty again,” she said, pulling away, “then I’ll let you fuck me wherever you please in this House.”

Cassian’s hands dug into the arms of his chair, as if restraining himself from leaping upon her. But his mouth parted in a savage grin. “Deal.”



No one asked about Nesta’s change of heart when she and Cassian entered the study in the river house late the next afternoon and found Rhys, Feyre, Azriel, and Amren waiting before a giant map of the faerie realms. A bowl of stones and bones sat beside it.

They all stared, weighed and judged her. But her eyes went to Feyre, who stood across the room, a hand resting idly on the slight swell of her belly.

Nesta refused to let anything show on her face as she offered her sister a small nod of greeting. She hated herself when Feyre’s eyes softened—hated the raw emotion there as Feyre nodded back, smiling tentatively.

She couldn’t stand the relief and happiness in Feyre’s eyes. That merely acknowledging her sister politely had caused it. Unable to stomach it, Nesta glanced to where Rhysand stood at Feyre’s side. One look into his eyes and Nesta allowed her mind to open—just a crack.

I will not say a word to Feyre, she swore.

She didn’t do it for any particular kindness, but to wipe that cautious look from Rhys’s eyes before it grated further. He’d no doubt either heard or guessed that Cassian had told her about the baby’s wings.

Rhys only said, his voice wary, Thank you.

Nesta didn’t ask about his visit to Miryam and Drakon—if he’d learned anything at all. She reached the table, Cassian keeping close. But she forgot about him as she faced Amren, who was watching her with cool distaste.

The words from months ago that Nesta had tried so hard to forget swarmed from the darkest pit of her memory, each one stinging. You have become a pathetic waste of life.

Nesta dropped Amren’s stare, focusing on the map. “Let’s be quick about this.”

Azriel asked from beside Amren, “When you attempted it two days ago, you felt nothing?”

“Nothing.” Nesta’s fingers hovered over the bowl of tools. “My mind circled itself.”

“What did you think of?” Amren asked.

How much she hated herself. Her father. How much she feared the Cauldron.

Nesta said, “The Trove. And what happened the last time I scried.”

Feyre said, “We won’t allow any harm to come to Elain. Rhys warded her this morning, and we have eyes on her at all times.”

“Eyes can be blinded,” Nesta said.

“Not the ones under my command,” Azriel said with soft menace. Nesta met his stare, knowing he was the only one aside from Feyre who could truly understand her hesitation. He’d gone with Feyre into the heart of Hybern’s camp to save Elain—he knew the risk. “We won’t make the same mistake twice.”

She believed him. “All right.” She scooped up the stones and bones.

They were ice-cold against her fingers.

Clenching them tight, Nesta closed her eyes and held her arm over the map spread across the table. No one spoke, though the weight of their gazes pressed on her.

Cassian’s warmth seeped into her side, his wings rustling near her back. She let that warmth, the rustle anchor her.

He had come to save her from her nightmare, had stayed with her while she slept. Had guarded and fought for her. He would let no harm come to her now.

No harm No harm No harm

What had been an endless spiral of thoughts vanished. A gaping hole yawned open in her mind.

No harm No harm No harm

Nesta eased into that darkness, as if slowly submerging herself in a pool.

Cassian’s arm brushed hers, and she let that anchor her, too. A lifeline out. She took his hand with her free one and interlaced their fingers. Let the touch ground her as she allowed the last of her mind to slip beneath the black surface.

And then nothing.

Falling slowly. Drifting, like a small stone fluttering to the bottom of a pond.

The Mask, she whispered, casting her mind into the eternity. Where is the Mask of the Dread Trove?

Still she drifted in liquid night.

In the beginning, and in the end, there was Darkness and nothing more. She had first heard that truth, understood it, during her battle with the Cauldron. And understood it again now as she floated into that same strange place, both full and empty, forever cold.

Where is the Mask? she asked the void.

Distantly, like a candle in a window, she felt Cassian’s hand tighten on hers. That was the way back. Nothing could trap her, hold her, if she had that way home.

Where is the Mask?



For long minutes, only the ticking of the grandfather clock in the corner filled the study.

Nesta stood beside Cassian, her fingers now loose in his hand, her other hand extended over the map, bones and stones bulging within.

Cassian swapped glances with Feyre. He’d barely been able to look at her when he’d entered, to see the slight swelling in her lower belly. But

he’d made himself grin, the portrait of casual, arrogant ease.

Now a chilled, phantom breeze drifted past him. The hair on the back of his neck stood.

Amren let out a soft hiss. “Where is she wandering to?”

Nesta’s hand remained over the map. But her fingers in his had gone cold as ice.

Cassian squeezed her hand, willing warmth into it.

Across the table, Azriel’s breath clouded. Rhys stepped closer to Feyre, positioning himself to intercept any unexpected threats.

“This didn’t happen that time during the war with Hybern,” Azriel murmured.

Before any of them could answer, Nesta’s eyelids shifted—like she was seeing something. Her brows bunched, just a quiver toward each other. Her fingers tightened on the stones and bones, knuckles going white. Still the air grew colder.

“If you see the Mask, girl, then now would be the time to let go,” Amren ordered, her voice wary.

Nesta’s hand remained shut. But her eyes still moved rapidly behind their lids, searching, seeking.

“Nesta,” Feyre commanded. “Open your hand.” Feyre had gone into Nesta’s mind the last time—had pulled her out, thanks to the daemati power she’d inherited from Rhys. Feyre swore softly. “She never lowered her shields. Her shields are …”

“A fortress of solid iron,” Rhys murmured, eyes on Nesta. “I can’t get in,” Feyre breathed. “Can you?”

“Her mind is guarded with something that no faerie magic can break,” Amren said. The essence of the Cauldron itself.

But Nesta showed no sign of fear, no scent of it.

“Give her time,” Cassian murmured. Gods, it was cold. Nesta’s eyelids fluttered again.

“I don’t like this,” Feyre said. “Wherever she is, it feels deadly.”

The cold kept dropping. Nesta’s hand tightened in his—a hard squeeze. A warning.

“Get her out, Rhys,” Cassian demanded. “Get her out now.”

“I can’t,” he said softly, his power a cloak of stars and night around him. “I— The doors to her mind were open the other night. They’re shut now.”

“She doesn’t want it seeing her. Or us,” Feyre said, her face tight. “She’s locked it out, but also locked herself in.”

Cassian’s stomach twisted. “Nesta,” he said into her ear. “Nesta, open your hand and come back.”

Her breathing sharpened. The cold deepened. “Nesta,” he snarled—

And the cold halted. It didn’t vanish, but rather … stopped. Nesta’s eyes flicked open.

Silver fire burned within. Nothing Fae looked out through them.

Rhys shoved Feyre behind him. She shoved her way back to his side. But Nesta’s hand continued to squeeze Cassian’s. He squeezed back, let his Siphons send a bite of power into her skin.

She turned her head so slowly it was like watching a puppet move. Her eyes met his.

Death watched him.

But Death had walked beside him every day of his life. So Cassian stroked his thumb along her palm and said, “Hello, Nes.”

Nesta blinked, and he let his Siphons bite her with his power again. The fire flickered.

He nodded to the map. “Let go of the stones and bones.” He didn’t let her scent his fear. Here was the being the Bone Carver had whispered about, exalted and feared.

Her eyes flamed. No one dared breathe.

“Let go of the stones and bones, and then you and I can play,” Cassian said, letting her sense his heat and need, forcing himself to remember that taunting kiss at dinner and her promise to let him fuck her wherever he wished in the House; what it had done to him, how much he’d ached. He let it all blaze in his eyes, let the scent of his arousal wrap around her.

Everyone tensed as he leaned in, head dipping, and kissed her. Nesta’s lips were chips of ice.

But he let their coldness sting his own, and brushed his mouth against hers. Nipped at her bottom lip until he felt it drop a fraction. He slid his tongue into that opening, and found the inside of her mouth, usually so soft and warm, crusted with hoarfrost.

Nesta didn’t kiss him back, but didn’t shove him away. So Cassian sent his heat into it, fusing their mouths together, his free hand bracing her hip as his Siphons nipped at her hand once more.

Her mouth opened wider, and he slid his tongue over every inch—over her frozen teeth, over the roof of her mouth. Warming, softening, freeing.

Her tongue lifted to meet his in a single stroke that cracked the ice in her mouth.

He slanted his mouth over hers, tugging her against his chest, and tasted her as he’d wanted to taste her the other night, deep and thorough and claiming. Her tongue again brushed against his, and then her body was warming, and Cassian pulled back enough to say against her lips, “Let go, Nesta.”

He drove his mouth into hers again, daring her to unleash that cold fire upon him.

Something thunked and clinked beside them.

And when Nesta’s other hand gripped his shoulder, fingers now free of stones and bones, when she arched her neck, granting him better, deeper access, he nearly shuddered with relief.

She broke the kiss first, as if sliding into her body and remembering who kissed her, where they were, who watched.

Cassian opened his eyes to find her so close that they shared breath. Normal, unclouded breath. Her eyes had returned to the blue-gray he knew so well. Stunned surprise and a little fear lit her face. As if she’d never seen him before.

“Interesting,” Amren observed, and he found the female studying the map.

Feyre gaped, though, Rhys’s hand gripped tight in her own. Caution blazed on Rhys’s face. On Azriel’s, too.

What the hell did you do to pull her out of that? Rhys asked. Cassian didn’t really know. The only thing I could think of.

You warmed the entire room. I didn’t mean to.

Nesta pulled away—not harshly, but with enough intent that Cassian peered at where she and Amren focused on the map.

“The Bog of Oorid?” Feyre frowned at the spot in the Middle. “The Mask is in a bog?”

“Oorid was once a sacred place,” Amren said. “Warriors were laid to rest in its night-black waters. But Oorid changed to a place of darkness— don’t give me that look, Rhysand, you know what I mean—a long time ago. Filled with such evil that no one will venture there, and only the worst of the faeries are drawn to it. They say the water there flows to Under the Mountain, and the creatures who live in the bog have long used its underground waterways to travel through the Middle, even into the mountains of the surrounding courts.”

Feyre frowned. “It can’t be more specific, though?” She asked Rhys, “Do we have a detailed map of the Middle?”

Rhys shook his head. “It’s forbidden to map the Middle beyond vague landmarks.” He pointed to the sacred mountain in its center, where he’d been held for nearly fifty years. “The Mountain, the woods, the bog … All can be seen from land and air. But its secrets, those discovered on foot— those are forbidden.”

Feyre’s frown didn’t lighten. “By whom?”

“An ancient council of the High Lords. The Middle is a place where wild magic still dwells and thrives and feeds. We respect it as its own entity, and do not wish to provoke its wrath by revealing its mysteries.”

Feyre faced Nesta, who was staring blankly at where the stones and bones had fallen in a neat little pile atop the bog. “The Middle is where the Weaver of the Wood dwelled,” Feyre said, voice tight. “If you go to the bog, you’ll need to be armed.”

“We’ll both be armed,” Cassian declared. “To the teeth.”

When Nesta didn’t respond, they all looked at her. None of them dared ask about that power, the being that had looked out at him. The one he’d melted away with his kiss. He could still taste that ice on his tongue, smell the scent similar to hers yet wholly different.

Nesta said, “We go tomorrow.”

Feyre started, “You need time to prepare—”

“We go tomorrow,” Nesta repeated. Cassian gleaned everything she wouldn’t say. She wanted to go tomorrow so she didn’t have the chance to think better of it. To learn more about the peril she’d be facing.

His fingers brushed against the small of her back, savoring her warmth after all that cold. “We’ll leave after breakfast.”

You'll Also Like